LINCOLN—Nebraska Farmers Union’s Board of Directors evaluated the wins and losses in the recently concluded legislative session during their spring board meeting. Like most Nebraskans, the Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) board was most frustrated over the failure to deliver property tax reform.
The NeFU board gave high marks and thanks to Senator Tom Briese of Albion for having the honesty, courage, and good sense to sponsor LB1084 that would have provided real property tax relief, adequately funded education, provided for a long overdue study of the state’s school aid funding formula, and re-aligned the excessive overuse of property taxes by updating Nebraska’s current income and sales tax exemptions. The board also thanked the Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education coalition, and Open Sky Policy Institute for their hard work the past year in developing the coalition package that became the basis for Sen. Briese’s LB1084. The board re-affirmed their organization’s commitment to being a part of this unique and constructive working coalition.
The NeFU Board of Directors put the primary responsibility for the legislature’s failure to address the property tax crisis at the feet of Governor Ricketts and Revenue Committee Chair Jim Smith. “Governor Ricketts and Chairman Smith failed to lead real reform efforts at a time when farmers are being forced out of business from low commodity prices. The Revenue Committee failed to put the competing property tax relief packages on the floor early enough in the session for proper discussion and consideration. Governor Ricketts and Chairman Smith’s focus was on income tax reductions, not property tax reform. It is not fiscally responsible to support income tax rates and revenue reductions when Nebraska’s current revenues are not sufficient to meet the state budget funding obligations. Kansas tried that, approach. It did not work. Nebraskans are clamoring for property tax relief, not income tax reductions.”
The NeFU board added: “When 72% or 178 out of 244 of Nebraska’s school districts do not currently receive any state equalization aid, and are forced to rely solely on property taxes, something is seriously and obviously wrong, and cries out for remedy. When Nebraska is 49th in the nation in the percentage (32.5%) of income and sales taxes used for total educational funding from the state, it is high time the state increases the amount of income and sales taxes used to fund education.”
The NeFU board concluded, “It is less than honest and certainly not helpful for Governor Ricketts to continue to pass the buck and blame local schools for using too many property taxes to operate their schools when they receive no state funding. When schools do not receive income and sales tax revenues from the state, they are forced to rely on local property taxes. High property taxes are the direct result of an unfair, unbalanced, state tax policy that fails to properly fund K-12 education. High property taxes are primarily a funding problem, not a spending problem. After four years, Governor Ricketts now owns our state’s unfair, out of balance, out dated, regressive, property tax intensive K-12 funding policy.”